How the Scandals Keep Adding Up
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How the Scandals Keep Adding Up

As the Mueller Probe Widens, Resistance Within the Trump Camp Intensifies

The way a syllogism—simple logic—works is that if A is true, and B is true, you can conclude C, some combination of the effects of A and B. So, if it is naturally light during the day, and we have natural light now, it must be daytime.

Simple logic for simple situations.

So, once Andrew McCabe has been fired hours before his pension could take hold, John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, calls news sources and announces his conclusion: The Justice Department should end the special counsel investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign—probably by firing Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Not to argue that Logic has any place in a discussion about Trumpdom, but this time there is no logic, and the “truth” of various A and B statements are anything but true.

The Trump camp, boosted by another tweetstorm over the weekend, feels that McCabe was biased against Trump and toward Hillary Clinton, and therefore the Russian investigation should be ended. Huh? Set aside that McCabe’s misstep(s)—outlined in a report still unreleased publicly—was in connection with an investigation that could embarrass Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. There is no connection between McCabe’s record on and off the job and the work being done by Mueller.

The timing and the tweeting seemed clear signals that the resistance to the Mueller probe is intensifying and growing nastier. At the same time, the McCabe firing seemed to rile even Republicans in Congress to start circling the wagons around Mueller, even as more avenues of investigation of possible criminal wrongdoing were opening for Trump and the campaign.

In his statements, Trump lawyer Dowd called on Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who oversees the special counsel, to end the inquiry and he accused the former FBI director, James B. Comey, of building a baseless investigation. “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the F.B.I. Office of Professional Responsibility and Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier,” Dowd told The Daily Beast.

Andrew McCabe

If Dowd wanted a syllogism now, it would have the opposite conclusion, however frustrating that may be to the Trump crowd: The special counsel investigation is gaining strength, not ready to give up. Here are new emerging lines of inquiry:

For openers, The Washington Post reported that McCabe kept contemporaneous memos of any conversations with Trump, Comey and others, and has talked with Mueller about his version of events in the firing of Comey. Mueller will talk with him more now. (The Post also reported that McCabe might take a job with a Democratic congressman for a day or brief period to re-earn pension benefits under federal retirement rules).

The New York Times and the Observer of London published details about how investigators are probing how British voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica, fueled with money from conservative Robert Mercer’s family, grabbed private information through a researcher—Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic—from 50 million American Facebook users to build tools for the Trump campaign to target potential voters. Facebook says the company had no permission to do so and vowed action against the firm, which now also could face criminal charges in the United States and Britain. The news organizations based their reporting on former Cambridge employees.

Facebook deputy general counsel Paul Grewal told The Times, “This was a scam—and a fraud. . . We will take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all—and take action against all offending parties.” Alexander Nix, chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, had repeatedly denied obtaining or using Facebook data, but told The Times that it had acquired and deleted the data. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, told Vanity Fair last October that the campaign had used Cambridge Analytica to build its social media tools.

Clearly there are an enormous number of questions to be asked here about Facebook (who said it could do whatever it wanted with data about me), about a Russian researcher for Cambridge (really, this is not a joke), about Mercer’s money and the involvement of Stephen K. Bannon, until recently the Mercer’s chosen one, and the Trump campaign’s use of what I would regard as stolen information—a crime in most societies.

Whatever this adds up to, it’s not shutting down any investigation.

Stormy Daniels

The Trump team’s handling of the sordid details of the Stormy Daniels affair likely has moved the disputed hush money contract into the purview of the Special Counsel as well. The insistence on vindictiveness and alleged physical threat to Stephanie Clifford, Daniels’ real name, the acknowledgment in court documents of participation in a hush-money contract and allegations of election money mishandling all raise questions for the special counsel, who is obliged to take a look at reports of criminal behavior. The questions are just building, not going away, all the result of Team Trump.

In issuing subpoenas for Trump Organization records, the special counsel’s office was setting up for a much longer and more intensive examination of documents that could touch on Trump business deals and would-be deals in Russia or involving Russian backers. Speculation has been broad about the possibilities of the gaps between what the president has said about Trump Organization deal-making in Russia and what has been the subject of testimony and comment from people outside the family who have been involved in those deal negotiations

going back a few years. Along the way, there have been new lines of inquiry about attempts to set up continuing back communication channels involving members of the Trump family and associates, designated business associates and Russians with entry to Vladimir Putin. Once again, these questions are opening new inquiries for the special counsel, not providing a reason to shut down the investigation.

At the same time, the House Intelligence Committee gave up last week, with Republicans announcing in a report that there was no evidence of “collusion” with Russia, and Democrats basically outlining multiple pages of investigative leads that they said Republicans would not honor in order to protect Trump.

Sometimes a little simple logic helps tell a complicated story.


March 19, 2018